Monday, November 16, 2009

The Washington Post Glee reader poll

Imagine my chagrin as I read a piece in the Washington post about why disability advocates are cringing about the failure to cast disabled actors in disabled roles, when I came to the end to a poll that contained the inherent assumption that hiring a disabled actor meant - get this- sacrificing quality of performance.

The readers' choices in the poll are about whether Glee should be given a "pass" for not having hired a disabled actor. The Yes answer reads that hiring someone with a disability would have "sent a vital message and signaled support for the disability community"

Wow. How touchy feely. How- charity-model-like.

The No answer reads : It's more important that the role be so expertly played that nobody even stops to wonder about whether the actor who plays it uses a wheelchair in real life.

To date, 85% voted no and 15% voted yes out of 39 votes.

Notice, however, how the answer "No" builds in the assumption (yet again) that there isn't a disabled actor who could play it so expertly. It implies sacrificing a quality in the performance if a disabled actor was hired. There's also this "one of us" implication in there about no one stopping to wonder whether the actor who plays it really uses a wheelchair in real life.

On the other hand, the 'Yes' answer implies that hiring a disabled actor would be just for politically correct reasons.

This wording discounts the achievements of those of us with disabilities who are out there succeeding and, in some cases, doing things better than able bodied counterparts. This whole discussion ignores the huge unemployment figures for the disability community.

It doesn't mention that job interviews for wheelchair using friends of mine are still scheduled in non accessible buildings. It doesn't mention that headhunters refuse to represent some disabled people with experience. None of the reasons why disability advocates protest hiring an able bodied actor to play a disabled role are mentioned, such as the fact that there are wheelchair using actors who could do the role better and do it right. We are nowhere near accurately portraying a disabled character in Hollywood because it reflects our societal mores and it is still a society that excludes people with disabilities.

The real irony of all this? McHale, the actor who plays Artie, can't dance in a wheelchair even though the role calls for dancing as well as singing. He's their "expert".


Terri said...

ugh... not articulate I know, but honestly, how can they not see the bias they are presenting????

FridaWrites said...

Truly--all of the mainstream media discussions I've seen assume actors who use wheelchairs cannot act as well--with no evidence to support this bias--because it can't be supported--there is no evidence.

Ruth said...

Terry: nodding::

The discussions make many assumptions, which- let's face it, works to avoid the real issues we face in our community. Facing those would mean change.

Unknown said...

This post has been included in a linkspam at Access_fandom. Thank you!